The Arts can really make a difference

Kimberley Griffin, People United’s work placement student reflects on recent pieces of work that illustrate the value of the arts. Kimberley has just completed her BSc in Psychology at the University of Kent.

I recently came across the newest report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing, which indicates all of the beneficial effects of the arts. It is a really informative and interesting read of the evidence found from 2 years’ worth of research that has a great synergy with the work of People United. The report claims that by engaging in any one of the visual or performing arts it can lead to improvements in a range of areas, including: depression, anxiety, loneliness, workplace stress, the management of long-term conditions, and the quality of life for stroke and dementia patients.

Whilst reading the report I kept thinking about how much People United’s work supports this and what has been inspiring to see recently is the documentary on Channel 4 that provides further practical support in line with the APPG report (which I can only hope will reach and inspire a wider population). The documentary called Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds follows a 6-week experiment investigating whether contact between pre-schoolers and pensioners can improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the pensioners through play, sport activities, and the arts. This relatively short period of intergenerational contact not only provided the pensioners and the pre-school children with a lot of enjoyment and enrichment in their lives, but it also led to improvements in the pensioners’ mood, strength, and mobility.

This documentary was fantastic to watch and I highly recommend it. It also got me thinking of the work People United did with Lunsford Primary School and the community care homes in their Treasure (Role Model) project. Similarly to the Channel 4 documentary, it involved connecting the younger generation with the older generation by encouraging them to think about people they treasure in their life and create related art pieces to share. The results from this project were very encouraging; both the care home residents and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it increased the children’s kindness towards older people. From this, People United created their Hunting for Treasure resource, which I think is a fantastic and valuable source for schools to use. It provides inspirational and practical ideas to create a more kind and caring society through the arts.

So, if reading this blog, the report, or watching the documentary has left you feeling inspired download – for free – the People United resources here, to help make a difference and promote the importance of engaging in the arts!

– Find out more about People United at www.peopleunited.org.uk

(Photo by Hope Fitzgerald.)

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Beer for breakfast?

During my work at Shepherd Neame’s Faversham brewery I was assigned to their laboratory. In the Analytical section of the lab, my tasks were to analyse beer samples to be sure they were in spec in terms of Co2, OG, PG, Bitterness, and polyphenol levels. Additional tests included carrying out head retention tests and VDKs to measure diacetyl and pentose levels in beer. In order to effectively determine these levels I had to become adept in the use of a number of machines, and the method of different analysis. The week I spent in the analysis section of the lab allowed me to gain the confidence of the operators and became proficient enough to be left to my own devices while taking samples around all areas of the brewery, conducting analysis of samples during different points in production, and carrying out my own projects within the lab. These projects included a joint venture with operators to measure effectiveness of yeast cultivation through use of different methods, and the making of my own homebrew using brewery supplies. I can say that the final result of this added to my experience several times over.

The second section I worked in was the microbiology section of the lab. During the week, I conducted yeast counts, cultivated different yeast strains through different methods, worked with different yeast agar mediums, and applied plating techniques using nanomembrane filters.

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The laws have changed

How was my work experience valuable? The list is substantial and I could go on, but the main thing I took out from my placement at Devereux Chambers, London is the insight into the barristers’ work. Such insight is of importance for a second stage law student, who should be making some big life decisions at this stage. Before, I did not know whether I duly wanted to do an LPC and become a lawyer, or whether doing a GDL and becoming a barrister would suit my personality better. Now I know the mixture of the two professions are appropriate. Additionally, I was not sure whether I am truly interested in tort law… so much as to represent harmed people for the rest of my life (alongside other things).

The work placement affirmed my interests and allowed me to see that I am capable of being a great representative in this field. Of course, no work experience will tell you exactly what you can and cannot do in life, rather it will be an indicator. For me, being in a highly respectable environment with a highly skilled personal injury barrister, reading his submissions and saying to myself ‘Ah, that is exactly what I thought’ indicates my potential. My learning was put into practice and was deemed to be useful.

Thanks to the bursary scheme, I could buy work-wear appropriate for the environment and felt comfortable in being the ‘newbie’ in the office. I could afford a ticket that meant I could get the 07:18 am train and be at Temple Station by 9am – I really do not know what would happen if that option was not available, it was already tiring to leave home at 7am and come back at 8pm. But, at least I know what kind of working world I am stepping into and what kind of working hours are to be expected.

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Money makes the world go around

My work’s week experience at Octopus Investments commenced on the 10th July 2017, I gained this work experience through the university via a friend’s mum. This work experience was incredibly helpful because it was my first ever work experience with the additional benefit that it was a sector I was hugely interested in as it related to my chosen degree: Financial Economics.

During my short time spent at the firm I couldn’t believe how much I learned mainly due to the organisation prior to my arrival, who had arranged for me to work in a different department every day. My first day was spent with the Client Relation team. The morning was spent shadowing a member of the team listening into calls, where I learnt the most about Octopus itself and the products it sold, with the client relation team having the most knowledge within the company on this aspect. The afternoon was spent with another member of the Client Relation team sifting through and processing feedback whilst improving my computer skills, as I was taught me to process and categorise all this.

My second morning was spent in Octopus’ property sales support team where they briefly outlined what their job entailed, then allowed me to work independently cancelling loan files. In the afternoon, I moved to the sales team and shadowed a member of the team who spoke to financial brokers and pushed to complete loans. On the Wednesday morning, I was with Octopus investment sales support team learning the ins and outs of their job and then creating illustrations (how much return they should expect if they invest X number of pounds with that product) for clients. In the afternoon, I was with a member of the sales team and listened in on his phone calls to potential and current investors. On the Thursday I spent all day with the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) fund team, it was probably the most interesting day of the week because I gained a understanding of how they run their £1.3 billion fund. I sat in on their weekly meeting discussing potential and future investments and then did research on a few of these potential investments, and gave my opinion. I received feedback and the positives of my research was discussed at length, and where to focus more to improve it. On the final day I was in the Labs team (their IT team) who are currently designing and implementing online product platforms which was interesting to see how they were helping the different departments I had been working with the all week.

Overall the work experience was fantastic and I would recommend doing some because it gives great insight into how large companies operate and gives you an opportunity to explore certain fields before actually committing to a full time job in that sector, whilst developing key office skills that will help me in the future after university and it skills which will help me through my studies.

– Ryan Beecheno

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

The University of Kent Work Experience Bursary was a valuable tool for me as it allowed me to attend my work experience at two different sites across London, based in Dagenham and Liverpool Street. The placement itself was extremely useful as it gave me a valuable first hand insight into the structure and working culture of a corporate business. Before the placement I had very little, if any, experience in this kind of working environment and due to the fact that I am usually required to work over the summer due to personal circumstance. This bursary provided me with the financial support to complete the full 2 week term of the placement and an additional training day on Wednesday 12th of July as well as giving me the opportunity to pursue another placement at the end of the summer.

Attending the placement gave me an invaluable insight into the working world, allowing me to network with various different staff members at all different levels of the company. These conversations improved both my confidence and knowledge of the firm as well as enabling to gain an understanding of the various pathways that exist into corporate business and all the different professions it has to offer. Most importantly, the placement provided me with the opportunity to develop strong relationships with those who are able to offer me graduate placements. I was able to demonstrate my strong work ethic and commitment to potentially pursuing a career with the firm after university. Maintaining the connections with these individuals is something that would have simply been impossible without the bursary, as I would not have been able to afford to attend in person. Ultimately, the bursary enabled me to begin trailblazing my own pathway to a graduate career in corporate business.

In my first week I spent a significant amount of time within the finance department mainly shadowing the CFO as well as the head of department. In this time I moved between the numerous sub departments of finance, where I ultimately found myself working closely with the financial accounting and control team, assisting them in the creation of the monthly financial reports. Working within this team was a particular highlight of my week due to the fact that my reason for undertaking the placement was learn about this area and gain an understanding of the day-to-day work schedule. However, my personal career goals how now slightly changed since this and I am now looking at other career paths, but I am keeping it open to possibility because I acknowledge that this experience might be specific to this firm and the culture and diversity of work may be different elsewhere.

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Pick up a copy any time you choose

Over the Easter break I undertook a four week placement with my local paper and news website back in Devon. Although being close to home, I still had to travel by train each day to the head office in the city of Exeter. Even with the short journey time the prices of rail tickets soon added up and without the University’s Bursary there is no way I would have been able to commit to such an extended period of time.

The placement itself – with devonlive.com – the new “digital first” online approach of numerous Devon papers including The Express and Echo and The Herald Express was incredible and completely invaluable to me in regards to my future career plans. Wanting to go into journalism a placement of this kind showed me the practical basics of how to find a story, research it and put the copy together. I also got to interview members of the public on local issues such as bus prices increasing and on charity events (skydives, bake sales, sunflower growing competitions) that they were planning. This improved my confidence and communication skills as I no longer hesitate to ask difficult questions or push for more information. I also got the chance to write for different sections of the publication ranging across news, property and events. For example, I compiled a list of places to find cheap prom dress and even bargain Easter eggs! This was amazing as I got to combine my love for fashion, chocolate and writing – the dream!

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You better work work work work work!

It’s summertime! Time to relax, spend some time with friends, laze about in the sun, right? Unfortunately, wrong. Sure there’s time to do some of that, but the summer vacation is the perfect time to find some work , not only to earn a bit of money for the coming academic year, but also to gain some work experience!

Does your CV have a skills gap? 

Is there something missing from your experience that would be really useful in the future? Which skills do job descriptions ask for, and can you provide all of them? Think about what you want to gain, and look for work experience that will tick that box.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a fantastic way to gain experience and skills. You won’t get paid, but you’ll be supporting a charity as well as making new friends and learning new skills. Charity shop work can help you develop customer service skills, time management, creativity (think about window displays and merchandising of stock) and organisational skills. Going abroad to help build a school or dig a well will give you cultural awareness, resilience, time management and team working skills. Employers love seeing volunteering on CV – it shows that someone is interested in the world they live in and is keen on giving back.

Some ideas:

Summer camps and language schools

Thinking of going into teaching? Want to gain some leadership skills? Summer camps and language schools could offer you these skills. Look online for local opportunities, and look around on campus – language schools take place across the summer at Canterbury campus, so find out who they are and where they are, and get applying.

Some ideas:

Talk to your friends and family

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” So many jobs are filled by people already known to a company, or someone who works there. Ask around, and see what’s on offer. You could find your dream job!